FBI, cops arrest suspected Filipino terror hackersBy DJ Yap
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A group of suspected Filipino hackers allegedly financed by a Saudi-based terrorist cell was arrested by agents of the Philippine National Police and the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) disclosed on Thursday.
The Filipino and American operatives working jointly arrested on Wednesday night four suspects and confiscated computers and telecommunication equipment believed being used by the suspects in their hacking activities, CIDG director Samuel D. Pagdilao Jr. said.
The group was allegedly behind attacks on the US telecommunication firm AT&T that resulted in $2 million in losses to the company in 2009.
In a statement, the CIDG said the group also had links to the Asian terrorist network Jemaah Islamiyah (JI).
Armed with several search warrants, members of the CIDG’s Anti-Transnational and Cyber Crime Division (ATCCD) and FBI agents struck at several target areas in Metro Manila to get at the suspects.
ATCCD chief Senior Supt. Gilbert Sosa identified the suspects as Macnell Gracilla, 31, a native of Carmen Rosales, Pangasinan and resident of Unit 5, Montiville Place, Greenville Subdivision, Sauyo, Quezon City; Francisco Manalac, 25, and his live-in partner Regina Balura, 21, both of 89 Sampaguita Extension, East Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City; and Paul Michael Kwan, 29, of 21 Hebrew St., West Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City.
Sosa added that Kwan had been previously arrested in 2007 by Philippine authorities following an international crackdown launched by the FBI against “suspected terrorist cells involved in financing terrorist activities.” It was not clear from the CIDG statement why he was released.
He said the FBI had been investigating the “incessant hacking” of telecommunication companies in the US and in the country since 1999 and had uncovered a paper trail consisting of various bank transactions linking the local hackers to the Saudi-based cell, whose activities include financing terrorists.
Sosa said that in 2007, FBI operatives arrested Pakistani JI member Muhammad Zamir in Italy.
Zamir’s group, which was later tagged by the FBI as the financial source of the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India, in November 2008, was also the same group that financed Kwan’s group of hackers in Manila, he said.
Sosa said Kwan and the other hackers in Manila were being used by Zamir’s group to hack into the trunk-line (PBX) of different telecommunication companies, including AT&T.
“Revenues derived from the hacking activities of the Filipino-based hackers were diverted to the account of the terrorists, who paid the Filipino hackers on a commission basis via local banks,” he said.
After Zamir’s arrest in 2007, a Saudi national took the helm of the operation of the group, which also maintained its link with the group of Filipino hackers based in Manila, the CIDG said.
In March, FBI authorities requested the CIDG-ATCCD for assistance after they found that the group of Filipino hackers was the same one that had been targeting AT&T.
Pagdilao said the arrests of Filipino hackers tied to a group involved in financing terrorist activities should serve as a wake-up call to legislators to hasten the passage of the Cyber Crime Prevention Bill now pending in Congress.
That bill, he said, would “address proactively the threat of cybercrime terrorists who have made the country their base of operations.”
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